As I settled into my favorite comfy reading chair, I reviewed the cover of the latest book I was about to begin.  “Pinot Envy” written by Edward Finstein had an interesting cover offering “murder, mayhem, and mystery in Napa”.  I am a lover of mysteries, but the wine angle of the title and location made me a bit uneasy as I am only a novice, non-experienced wine drinker.  I hoped the wine angle would either be explained, or be secondary to the actual plot line.

51zlezGi6KL__AA160_As I began the book, I realized that Finstein obviously recognized that to reach a broader audience for this work, that he would need to have the main character, Woodrow (Woody) Robins in a profession that allowed explanation without talking down to the reader or beyond the readers level of understanding.  Robins is a teacher, educator, wine lover and sometimes investigator.  This combination quickly laid my early concerns to rest.

Like many other mystery novels, there is a lot of misdirection and clues that are compiled throughout the pages.  Unlike many other mystery novels, the misdirection and clues come fast allowing the pages to seem like they are turning themselves as I stayed up too late captivated by the action and trying to figure out the “who dunnit”.

In this, Finstein’s first fictional work, Woody takes on a case of a stolen bottle of Chambertin that was crafted for Napoleon which was kept in an extremely high-tech specially designed vault at an estate in Napa Valley of a very wealthy businessman, McCall.   As the tale unfolds, I was transported by the stream of conscience story telling by Woody as he works through the case.

The suspect pool is quickly narrowed to the attendees of a dinner party hosted by McCall and the staff of the estate.  Woody works through the possibilities and the knowledge, skills, and motives of these people, and collects any and all information by almost any means available including his police detective friend, Georgey.

As a secondary plot line, Woody is distracted by a love interest, Julia and his aunt Sadie.  Through this story line, Woody’s motivation for taking the case is explained.

As I read the last line of the book, I simply smiled to myself for a couple of reasons…one for having finished another enjoyable book, and two for having learned a bit more about wine and “pinot envy”.